Pennsylvania seniors who decide to divorce may face different challenges than had they divorced in their younger years. Instead of arguing over child support and custody, they’ll find themselves dividing retirement accounts and a lifetime’s accumulation of joint marital assets.

Couples over 50 years old cannot simply divide financial assets, such as retirement accounts, however they want. There are specific rules that must be followed when splitting up 401(k), IRAs, pensions and other retirement funds that may include annuities. The wealthier a couple is, the more challenges they may face in coming up with an equitable plan for property division. Annuities can be especially challenging to divide without harming their value. Because of this, experts say that the annuity holder may want to trade other assets to keep this account intact.

Dividing retirement plans also isn’t clear-cut; couples cannot decide to simply split the funds 50-50. Splitting 401(k)s needs a qualified domestic relations order, signed by a judge. Plus, there are tax issues that need to be determined. Recipients can get a one-time break from paying penalties on early withdrawals of retirement funds. Terms for splitting IRAs can be handled in the divorce decree.

Divorces among older couples are increasing with a rate that has doubled since the 1990s. Spouses may want to put together a financial team that includes a financial planner and divorce attorney who may be able to advise them on how to handle complicated financial issues, including taxes, retirement accounts and property division of tangible assets such as a house. Mistakes in gray divorces can be costly to seniors who don’t have the time to rebuild their financial resources for a secure retirement.